How to do Set In Piecing, 9 helpful hints


Making a Quilt Block with set in piecing is a challenge.

9 helpful hints for set in piecing

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It takes extra steps and extra time.

Recently a quilting friend of mine, Bea Lee, suggested I simply redesign the block in Electric Quilt 7. (affiliate link) If I did that, I could actually avoid all this “set in piecing” stuff!

The thought had crossed my mind, in fact I was VERY tempted, when I made the Joy Sampler for the Island Batik Ambassador July Project

But, the block units are small and I thought it would have too many seams.

Plus…I do so love a challenge, even if it drives me crazy 🙂
and there’s nothing wrong with to adding Set In Piecing to your quilting skill set!

I think it’s a good thing to do.

I do have some experience with set in piecing, but I’m not an “expert” . . . yet.

Example of a Block with Set in Piecing
Example of a block I made with set in piecing

My past experience was in the beginning of my quilting career, when I feared no block.
But, with knowledge, came intimidation of more difficult blocks! Go figure!
Maybe it was really less time or patience that was to blame?

On With The Whirling Star Block

Set In Piecing - Whirling Star Block
Whirling Star Block Number 3 – 12″ Block size

When I set out to do the Whirling Star Block (aka The Block From Hell) :),
I tried to make the block without the benefit of pulling out my go to quilting reference book. The Quilter’s Ultimate Visual Guide (affiliate link)

That taught me a lesson! It woulda been much simpler if I’d grabbed the book in the first place.

During my first two attempts

  • I had the “Set In” unit on top.
  • I was pressing the seams in one direction


I discovered it is much simpler

  • if the “set In ” unit is underneath.
  • If the seams are pressed open

Here are 9 helpful hints for your next project with Set In Piecing

In the steps below examples from two different blocks are shown.

The whirling star is used as an example of a block with set in piecing. The steps will be the same in a different style block.

    With set in piecing, the first two units are not sewn from edge to edge.
    You will need to stop sewing 1/4″ away from the fabric edge.
    In the whirling star block it is the two trapezoids that are sewn together.

  1. Mark the point 1/4″ away from the edges. This is where you need to stop stitching.
  2. Stitch the seam to the mark (where the two lines cross in this example). Backstitch.
    Stithcing the first two units in set in piecing
    Sew Trapezoids together stop stitching where it’s marked.

  3. After stitching, press the seams open
  4. Press Seams Open in Set In Piecing

  5. If your machine allows, set your needle to the down position
  6. Mark the tip of the triangle 1/4″ away from the edge – this is the point where the triangle meets the seam of the trapezoids. (I marked the wrong side of fabric on my first few attempts – this is standard practice. But I like to break rules 🙂 , and decided to mark the right side of the triangle in my last practice session. I found it most helpful to see the marked spot on the triangle, while sewing the seam)
  7. Mark the top of the triangle
    Marking the right side of the triangle allows you to see where you need to sew too.
  8. Place the triangle, right side up, underneath the first trapezoid.
    The Trapezoids are on top with the wrong side up.
  9. With the edge of the triangle and the first trapezoid even, pin in place, stitch to the seam, sewing to the mark on the triangle
  10. Piecing in the set in unit
    Triangle pinned to trapezoid – side one
  11. Now, lift up the presser foot and pivot the units and adjust for sewing. Sew the remaining side of the triangle to the other trapezoid.
  12. Now press the seams towards the trapezoids.
    Press Triangle towards trapezoids
    In a perfect world, the seam and the marked line would have matched.
Hopefully it was a wildly successful attempt at set in piecing…
if not

Do what I’ve done…try, try again.

Like I said, I’m not an expert …yet :), but I wanted to share with you some tips I’ve learned these past weeks about set in piecing.

It’s getting better and I’ve already improved my skills, I know you will too.


Now, I’m going to continue to “play” with this block and I’ll see you next week.

Have a wonderful quilting adventure!

Peace, Love, joy 🙂

Adele, Creative Domestic Engineer

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9 helpful hints for set in piecing

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Fiber Artist, Author, Designer, Pianist, and Organic Foodee. My Mission is to inspire and educate the creator in you.

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